The coronavirus has had America on its toes for nearly nine full months now, and family law is riding on waves of its repercussions. As individuals contract the novel virus and pass away from its complications, many families are left wondering what who takes over as head of the household? Who begins raising these newly parentless children? And what happens to the children when no one steps up?
How Sisters Became Parents to their Siblings
In May 2020, one New Jersey family experienced a profound loss but managed to turn it into an incredible blessing. Lunisol Guzman immigrated to America from the Dominican Republic over thirty years ago. She raised three children in New Jersey, and then in her late 40s, decided to foster and adopt a little boy and his baby sister. She was their world.
When the coronavirus spread in early April, Lunisol and her husband Ismael Lugo both contracted it. Within weeks, both had passed away. The two newly adopted children were alone, but not for long. Lunisol's adult daughters jumped at the chance to raise their adopted siblings. They knew it was something their mother would want them to do, and they knew how important it was to keep them out of the foster system.
How Does a Judge Award Custody?
In New Jersey, to determine child custody, the judge will rule in the child's best interest. He or she will look at certain facts, which can include:
- Needs of the child
- Safety of the child from abuse
- Child's interaction with siblings
- Children's age
In the Guzman case, the judge awarded the older daughters joint custody – they share the children. Each child lives mostly at one of the sisters' homes but sees the other all the time. This placement was clearly in the best interest of these children.
But many children of deceased parents, adopted and biological, are not so lucky. Therefore, it is essential to determine whom you would want your children to be raised by beforehand. If parents pass before their child is of age, and without a will stating who the legal guardian will be, a court will decide. If there are no living family members or third-party individuals who petition the court to be the child's guardian, the judge will place them in the foster care system.
Can a Family Law Attorney Help?
Every family is unique, and each parent's requirements for who could be a suitable guardian for their child are different – as is each New Jersey county's specific Family Court proceedings. Having an experienced New Jersey family lawyer is imperative to your success. Attorney Joseph D. Lento is passionate about keeping families together. He works tirelessly to ensure your child's custody is somewhere that is in their best interest – with you or someone you trust. The coronavirus has destroyed countless families, and it has yet to truly slow down. Having a contingency plan in place that includes an experienced family law attorney will mitigate this devastating virus's consequences. Don't get lost in the complexities of these issues. The most important thing is to ensure that your child is safe and well-cared for by someone you trust in the event of your death. Call 888-535-3686 today to schedule a consultation.